Matt Hancock was all smiles at the launch event for his book, Pandemic Diaries: The inside story of Britain’s battle against Covid, this evening.
The former Health Secretary, 44, was pictured smiling with girlfriend Gina Colangelo at London‘s Science Museum, where attendees listened to him speak during the launch event.
He was pictured signing copies of the hardback book, with guests including former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and Amber Rudd at the event.
The I’m A Celebrity contestant recently faced backlash after deciding to appear on the ITV show following the decisions he made as health secretary during the pandemic.
In the last few days, MailOnline has published his side in an electrifying and astonishingly revealing diary.
The book, which has been written with author Isabel Oakeshott, will cost £25.
The former health secretary, 44, was pictured smiling with girlfriend Gina Colangelo at London’s Science Museum
Mr Hancock kisses Ms Colangelo on the head at the launch event of his book on Monday evening
The MP with author, Geoffrey Archer at the launch of his book, Pandemic Diaries
The MP with former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne at the launch of his book
Its blurb reads: ‘When Covid-19 swept the world, governments scrambled to protect their citizens and chart a course back to normality.
‘As Health Secretary, Matt Hancock was at the forefront of Britain’s battle against the virus, trying to steer the country through the crisis in a world where information was scarce, judgements huge and the roadmap non-existent.
‘Drawing on a wealth of never-before-seen material, including official records, his notes at the time and communications with all the key players in Britain’s Covid-19 story, this candid account reveals the inner workings of government during a time of national crisis, reflecting on both the successes and the failures.
‘Recounting the most important decisions in the race to develop a vaccine in record time and to build a nationwide testing capacity from the ground up, Pandemic Diaries provides the definitive account of Britain’s battle to turn the tide against Covid-19.
‘Crucially, it also offers an honest assessment of the lessons we need to learn to be prepared for next time – because there will be a next time.’
Mr Hancock addresses the guests invited to his book launch on Monday night in the Science Museum
Mr Hancock laughs with George Osborne at the book launch event on Monday night
MR Hancock with Amber Rudd, at the launch of his book, Pandemic Diaries
Mr Hancock laughs while at the launch event for his book Pandemic Diaries on Monday night
The MP signs a copy of his new book at the launch event on Monday night
The book is said to offer an ‘honest assessment of the lessons we need to learn to be prepared for next time – because there will be a next time’. Pictured, Mr Hancock at the launch event
In the book, Mr Hancock revealed the harrowing moment a Covid patient was put on a ventilator as a doctor said: ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again.’
The former health secretary had travelled to Basildon Hospital in January 2021, then one of the most under-pressure hospitals, to accompany doctors on the night shift.
The ‘unbelievably awful moment’ was one of countless horrors experienced by NHS frontline staff in the pandemic, which has claimed 212,000 lives in the UK.
At the time there were still 37,000 people in hospitals being treated for Covid, and staff faced the bleak regularity of caring for patients in the final days of their life.
Matt Hancock with staff at Basildon hospital in January 2021
Matt Hancock with staff at Basildon hospital in January 2021
Mr Hancock writes: ‘In intensive care, I watched a man consent to being intubated because his blood oxygen levels weren’t sustainable.
‘He spoke to the doctor who said, ‘We want to put a tube in, because we don’t think you’ll make it unless we do that.’
‘His chances of waking up were 50:50. He knew that. It was an unbelievably awful moment.
‘He reluctantly agreed, and within a minute he was flat out on the ventilator.
‘The doctor next to me said, ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again’.’
Another registrar called the patient’s wife to say had been intubated, and told the then minister: ‘We’re doing this, we all know it’s our duty, we’re coping with a second wave – but we can’t have a third.’
‘Then he burst into tears,’ Mr Hancock says, adding that the night shift at the Essex hospital, completed in full PPE, left him ‘completely drained’.
The episode also reveals the background to debates happening at the top levels of Government.
In these, Mr Hancock and Chief Medical Officer professor Chris Whitty used stories from the front line to push for tougher measures to stop the virus.
They were pitched against Covid hawks such as Rishi Sunak, then the chancellor, who used the public finances ‘horror show’ to argue against tighter restrictions.
The MP also revealed in the book that Baroness Betty Boothroyd called Mr Hancock‘s office to demand the jab, according to his pandemic diaries.
The ex-health secretary was also forced to call cricket legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott to persuade him that delaying a second jab would work.
But in both cases Mr Hancock was left raging after they gave lengthy interviews slamming the Government’s handling of the vaccine rollout.
Two weeks after the jab was signed off in December 2020, former Commons speaker Baroness Boothroyd called Mr Hancock’s office to ask ‘if there’s any way she can get her jab soon’.
Betty Boothroyd gets her Covid jab – after phoning Matt Hancock’s office
After calling her back from his Government car, Mr Hancock agreed to arrange it – ‘given her age, she’s entitled to it’ – as long as she would have it on camera.
The then 91-year-old ‘readily agreed’ but left the minister fuming after she later ‘kicked off’ in a long television interview slamming the Government’s decision to delay second jabs.
She told Sky News in January 2021: ‘I’ve seen some U-turns in the last few weeks but this is the daddy of them all.’
Mr Hancock wrote in his diary: ‘Given that I personally ensured she got her first jab fast, it feels a bit rich.’
He added: ‘It’s particularly miserable being criticised by people I’ve grown up admiring and went out of my way to help, but welcome to the life of a politician.’
Also revealed in the new book, Mr Hancock said that Boris Johnson ‘practically had smoke coming out of his ears’ after an ‘extraordinary row’ over Pfizer bosses’ attempts to divert vaccines to the EU.
In his pandemic diaries, the former health secretary records the EU’s ‘desperate’ attempt to institute an export ban before a ‘humiliating’ U-turn two days later.
In January 2021 the vaccine rollout was in full swing after Britain became the first country to authorise the jab a month earlier.
But a major row was brewing with the EU, which made vital errors negotiating contracts and over-estimated how quickly it could produce and distribute jabs.
It meant millions of vaccines were being exported from the continent while its politicians were hammered for failing to provide enough for their own citizens.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted the bloc was late authorising the jab
The EU took drastic steps to try and cover up its mistakes.
Mr Hancock recalls the tense moment when he told the Prime Minister of the last-minute attempt by Pfizer’s bosses to divert exports to the EU.
Calling the row ‘extraordinary’, he writes: ‘When I got to the Cabinet room, the PM practically had smoke coming out of his ears.
‘He was in full bull-in-a-china-shop mode, pacing round the room growling.
‘What really riled him was the fact that only last night he was speaking to Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla, and Bourla made no mention of it!
‘I was wary: when the PM is in this mood, he can really lash out.
‘I knew I’d need to be as diplomatic as possible if I wanted to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.’
Three days later he reports Pfizer has ‘relented’, adding: ‘Following a robust exchange between Bourla and the PM, lo and behold, they’ve located an ’emergency supply’, which is now heading our way.’